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Bus vendors run rampant - Warnings ineffective in putting halt to unauthorised practice

Published:Thursday | December 22, 2016 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott
A vendor (left) joins passengers prepare to board a Jamaica Urban Transit Company bus.

Illegal vending has been continuing unabated on the buses of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) despite numerous warnings from the management of the state-owned company for the practice to cease.

It is the Christmas season and the rowdy vendors are out in their numbers in the busy commercial bloc of downtown Kingston. Resolute to make a profit, they see the passenger-filled buses as prime markets for sales.

The vendors, many of whom sell drinks, fruits, biscuits and sweets, one by one board the buses at the slightest chance, but with no display of a Food Handler's Permit.

"Even before the people can come off the bus, they are coming up here. Last week, a lady parked one of the push-trolley that she was selling juice from right in front of the [bus] door and the people had to go around her because she said the other vendors were not going on before her," Jackie, a frequent passenger on the 77 bus, which plies the downtown to August Town route, told The Gleaner yesterday.

An elderly woman selling sodas and phone credit on one of the parked buses destined for Norbook in upper St Andrew told The Gleaner that she has been selling on the bus for years.

She admitted to knowing of the no-vending policy, but has no intention of stopping because, according to her, it is all she does to feed herself and her family.

"Sometimes, all five of us on the one bus because everybody trying to make something. [They] have to understand that we don't have big office like them, so this is what we have to do to eat a little food," she said.

The flagrant disregard for the rules laid out by the state-owned company also facilitates and promotes eating and drinking on the buses by passengers, giving rise to a another long-standing problem.

The crumbs from biscuits and the spills from drinks harbour roaches and other pests, but the passengers, too, do not seem to care, oftentimes leaving wraps and containers on the buses.

A driver of one of the buses, who agreed to speak with The Gleaner on condition of anonymity, said drivers will not take the chance to tell the vendors not to board the buses as they are fully aware of the dangers in doing so.

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"A driver will not tell a man not to sell on the bus, because [he] might cut you or trace you off and tell you that you are trying to stop [his] food. So, as a driver, you have to know what you doing," the JUTC driver of four years said.

Continued the driver: "Sometimes, you can tell the little ones (children) who come to come off, but not everybody will take the chance with the big people because they will create excitement on you."

When The Gleaner put the issue to Reginald Allen, communications manager at the JUTC, he admitted that illegal vending on the buses was a real issue for the company, but was quick to point out that the vendors are not easy to deal with.

"We know that it happens, but on the overall basis of balance, we have not necessarily taken that hard-and-fast approach because we know we are working in a certain environment," Allen said.

He said the JUTC's efforts in bringing the issue under control was a work in progress because "there are contending views about practices which persons use to make a living".